Where turkeys in Turkey come from

In Elif Batuman's article on a Turkish chef who is reviving authentic Turkish cuisine I came across a seemingly unbelievable fact:In Turkey, a turkey is called 'hindi'. These birds are quite a part of Turkish culinary culture and they are usually eaten on New Year's eve. Much like in France you don't order French fries but pommes frites, I did suspect that in Turkey they don't call the turkey 'turkey'. But 'hindi'?!

Knowing how maddening it is to hear the confusion between Hindu and Hindi, I suspected for a moment that the Turks meant something else. I had this checked with my Turkish friend. This was her response:

"Hindistan is the name of the country India in Turkish! And the name of the bird does actually come from the name of the country, as the latter used the be called “the bird from India” or something like that. The word Hindi, however, is no longer used to refer to Indians (perhaps because of its use as a bird name). Now we have the word Hintli, which means “Indian”. So hindi is only part of the name of the country today. "
So, turkeys are from India or thought to be so by the Turks at least. I really doubt that I ever saw a turkey in India and, if my memory serves me right, Salim Ali's masterwork The Book of Indian Birds" has no mention of turkeys of any kind (but this I need to check). So, if turkeys are not from Turkey, and unlikely to be from India, where is this bird from? The Wikipedia article is not terribly clear on the Turkey-India connection to the etymology either(I checked). The article seemed to suggest a perverse perpetration of the mistaken Columbian idea that America was really India.

If indeed the turkey is from India then this goes in way of things that the lands in the Middle East get credit for the things that we, the people of India really should. The kinda of logic that led to OUR numbers being called Arabic numbers, and that Gypsies are from India and not Egypt.

Yet, I would prefer calling the turkey a 'turkey' and not a 'hindi'. It's a battle well lost than won. Imagine Thanksgiving and people here trying to roast a 'hindu'? No, thanks!

Update:
From: NPR Story: Why A Turkey Is Called A Turkey
And just to keep this ball rolling…all over the world, people now can eat American Turkeys, but they don't call them Turkeys.

Across Arabia, they call our bird "diiq Hindi," or the "Indian rooster."
In Russia, it's "Indjushka," bird of India.
In Poland, "Inyczka"— again "bird from India."
And what, we wondered, do the Turks call our turkey?
Well, they call it "Hindi," again, short for India.

It's just not the Turks, but anyone East of the Indus. Mis-labeling of food. An age-old practice.

2 comments:

mekie said...

Incredibly funny!

I have seen turkeys in Tamilnadu -- they are called 'vaan kozhi' in Tamil. I'm not sure if they are native to India though.

Here is a flickr image of a vaankozhi!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rampsgsrv/4459120413/

SKP50 said...

Quite amusing and interesting and well written too!!